Making history for Liberia’s first female record holder
Berenice Mulubah is a woman with many faces: blogger, composer, author and musical entrepreneur.
Born in Liberia in the 1970s and moved to the United States later, she has never ceased to amaze people in the struggling Liberian music industry. Whether it’s quitting blogging in an unknown way, writing one of the most self-explanatory books in the country, and later returning to blogging, Berenice has always sparked a revolution in the blogging industry. music.
This time around, she took on a task that many women don’t dare to venture into Liberia: to become the country’s first female label owner, C Liberia Clearly Records, which is also her stage name.
“The task is difficult, the one I know. But I am ready to handle it,” says BÃ©rÃ©nice. “The industry is dominated by men, so I have to compete for space and build my brand.” Recalling the nature of music labels in Liberia and being the first female label owner at the time, Berenice said she was up to the task.
âAlso, my personal mantra is ‘hard work’, and with that always in mind, I am continuing what I intend to do. The record company is here to stay in Liberia and we are ready to go. to let the world know about our vast talents, âshe boasted.
The label, she says, was founded on the principle of bringing back the music of the past, Traditional (folk) or Gbema. Traditional or gbema music uses vocal harmony, repetition and structure of call and response song, as well as typical West African elements such as ululation and polyrhythm typical of the rhythm in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Now in business for a year, the label is home to an artist, Milton Klechee, who was signed on to rekindle the public’s desire for traditional Grebo music. Milton, coincidentally, is largely rooted in mainstream music and promoted by the label to an enviable place in the Liberian music circuit. Milton already has four singles, but the most popular are âYenswa BaMuâ and âKwedehâ.
Upon their release, they experienced a brief status as bangers but were soon to be dethroned from their place by Afrobeats and Hipco, the two musical genres popular today in Liberia.
“I am a big fan”
Over the past few decades, traditional Liberian music has given way to the Afrobeats genre as number one, topping the local charts, with many local artists and even surpassing Hipco, Liberia’s hip-hop-inspired form of rap. American but sung in local pidgin. While Afrobeats cracked the market in its favor, that wasn’t the case a few years ago – as there was the market for its competitor – Gbema, with many top performers rocking the airways with Some success.
But nowadays, the situation has changed, pushing the latter into obscurity with little interest among emerging artists.
âI’m a big fan of traditional music. They are connected and relevant today. Their melody is beautiful and it represents us, what we belong to as people,â Berenice explained. âRight now people think that Liberia does not have its unique style of music but rather follows the trendy style in Africa. This is wrong and this is the idea that I plan to correct through the records of the label.”
Seeing a generational style of music lost, BÃ©rÃ©nice realized that something had to be done quickly before it was too late. So she quit blogging and started a label – C Liberia Clearly to revive the good old days instead of building the industry, with new music and new artists and more and more new promos.
The last known and widely recognized Gbema single, accepted by all Liberians, young and old, and in all parts of the country was recorded in 2011. The song, the infectious beat “Da My Area”, and its socially relevant genius lyrics who speak to all walks of life grabbed the life of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who used the song as the hook for her 2011 re-election campaign.
And using her connections with the industry, she co-wrote and produced a song with one of the country’s most revered artists, DenG. The connections, while cultivated over time, resulted in an obsession with the music industry, but it comforted her when she came into contact with old-school traditional classical music, as well as working with DenG, to produce the song “Lappa”. This further piqued his love for traditional music.
âI instantly fell in love with it. Now I dedicate my whole life to showcasing our Liberian heritage through traditional music,â she says. âWe have a great culture and a musical style, but we tend to underestimate it, so I wanted to illustrate what Liberia has to offer. I am traveling, and my home and my roots inspire me. the one my mother taught me to be. “
But it was after five years of releasing the single that she mustered the courage to put her dream into action – shocking the industry with the announcement of her retirement from blogging. Self-retirement, she said, was meant to put a blogging career on hold to fulfill other dreams – resurrecting her most beloved musical genre – traditional or gbema – giving birth to the C Liberia Clearly Record.
The name, according to Berenice, sounds traditional with a modern twist, which makes it perfect for the label’s brand. It also involves seeing Liberia musically from a different perspective.
The current journey, says Berenice, is defined by values, and her love for traditional music and not the historic label as the country’s first female record label owner. Such an attitude seems to be winning over fans of the label, as many young Liberians are delighted to experience the traditional musical way of life.
But such a love of the public hasn’t stopped her from putting efforts into improving the label’s upcoming album to make it more resounding and relevant to the country’s young and diverse population, whose taste for modern sounds grows stronger with each passing year. day. The next step, she says, is to add some modern touches. The vast majority of the sound will be reminiscent of tradition, as she plans to open a state-of-the-art recording studio at her home in Liberia.
âI want young people to get to know their roots and appreciate the contribution of their ancestral music to success and celebrate the legends of this generation who are alive,â said Berenice. âIt’s sad that many of them are alive, but their legacy lives on only among the older populations of the country. It shouldn’t be. The music always changes, but it means we have to forget about the people whose the contributions led to the development of the industry. “
Traditional music is where Berenice’s true passions reside, but she also plans to add a modern genre to the label project like the Hipco artists. And with increased smartphone penetration and broadband connectivity over the past decade, platforms like YouTube, SoundCloud, and Spotify have reportedly made Berenice’s label easy to reach large numbers of Liberians, both at home and abroad. abroad, resurrecting an almost lost traditional musical genre.
According to the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, young people make up more than 70 percent of the total Liberian population. This means that a good song and proper use of these platforms would easily bring traditional music back into the limelight.
And when the label opens its studio, she hopes it will be a space for reflection and a socio-political platform, to revive the era of music for social and moral change. It is also her hope that this moment can be led by female artists.